Vietnam is believed to be the second Asia-Pacific nation to manufacture its own variant of a missile based on the Russian Zvezda-Strela 3M24 Uran, an analysis by two military analysts showed recently.
The first nation is North Korea, which has previously shown footage of a missile that closely resembles the Russian medium-range anti-ship weapon, according to Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace and Tom Waldwyn, Research Analyst for Defence and Military Analysis at London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
But unlike Pyongyang, Hanoi has been at least slightly more forthcoming as to the nature of its own program. The Vietnamese variant of the missile, designated as the KCT 15 anti-ship missile, is the result of technology transfer from Russia. It is not clear whether this represents a full production capacity, or licensed final assembly, or something in between, the two analysts said.
Photo provided by IISS.
Vietnam and Russia began to discuss local “manufacture” of the 3M24 in 2011–2012. The initial acquisition of the 3M24 from Russia was aimed at improving the anti-surface warfare capacity of the Vietnam People’s Navy. The indigenious production of the KCT 15 will help develop local industry and likely simplify logistics support.
The KCT 15 was first shown publicly in late 2015 as part of a display of defense technology that also included air defense surveillance radar. The missile was shown alongside a twin launcher for surface vessels. The Vietnamese navy already operates the 3M24, with the missile providing the main anti-ship armament of the Russian-built Gepard-class frigate. The navy operates two of this class at present with a further two under construction. The 3M24 is also the main armament of the navy’s six Tarantul V fast missile boats (the Molniya class), as well as its single BPS-500 corvette, according to the analysis.
Work on the basic 3M24 began in the early 1980s and it had a maximum range of 130km, but some local press reports suggest the Vietnam’s KCT 15 has around double this range. There has also been a suggestion in the media that the licence agreement with Russia covers three versions of the missile.
The two analysts said the KCT 15 that was put on display differed from the basic 3M24 in that there was no inlet duct between the mid-body wing for the turbofan engine. An upgraded air-launched variant, known as the Kh-35U, has a revised layout for the engine, which is repositioned in an enlarged rear-fuselage section. This provides for greater fuel capacity and extends the missile’s maximum range. The KCT 15 shown, however, did not correspond to this configuration. A further option is that the design has a flush intake, although this was not visible on the missile displayed.
Separately, the government of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.
BrahMos has a range of 290 km and can be fired from land, sea and submarine. An air-launched version is under testing.
A source at the defense ministry said India was hoping to conclude negotiations on the supply of BrahMos to Vietnam by the end of the year.
The Indian government is also considering a proposal to offer Vietnam a battleship armed with the BrahMos missiles instead of just the missile battery, according to Reuters.